Once upon a time, at the age of seven or eight, I thought romantic love was guaranteed. I was taught by Disney, my parents and images in the media that I’d settle down after college, get a job, get married, have children. He was out there waiting for me to “find” him. It wasn’t a matter of “if,” it was just a matter of “when.” That’s what people do. They pair up and get married. They have kids. They build lives.
Even with the highly publicized divorced rates, we still romanticize the idea of our soul mate. We still expect it. We settle. We divorce and look for him or her again. We always “believe” they are out there.
My cynical view of romantic love formed after having settled for less than I deserved because that was what society expected of me. “If you have kids, you marry. If you marry, you have kids.”
Life just doesn’t work that way. It’s only by creating your own version of happiness rather than following a pre-scripted road map. Simple concept–yes. Path often followed–not from what I’ve seen. I made a deliberate decision to create my own little family, sans the archetypal father figure. Surrounding us, a village of supporters to help guide and raise. I had to rely on myself rather than wait for my white knight to pay the mortgage. I go to grad school because I know it will keep me motivated and driven. That should be enough. Yet, external forces still nag “who are you dating?” “seeing anyone special?” “he’s out there,” or pointedly, “where’s the father?” “does he help?”
Because I’ve never been married, some people feel that I’ve missed a critical step. Or my judgement is impaired. Even the divorcees are cut SOME slack. It didn’t work out. They tried. At least they tried. I’ve felt pressure to leap into relationships to explain my choices or pronounce feelings that haven’t matured. I’d find ways to volunteer tidbits of information about my latest guy just to get a knowing smile, an “at least she’s trying.” It’s amazing how people’s faces change from horrified to relieved. Even my parents are guilty of this facial twitch.
What if there are people, personalities, and brain wiring that aren’t compatible with romantic love, let alone soul mate pairing? In almost every relationship I’ve been in, I often feel this sick pit of my stomach that he isn’t “the one.” To get in front of Carrie Bradshaw, no I’m not picking the same men. Each guy is from either ends of the spectrum and in between. Some were aggressive, others passive, passive-aggressive, marriage-minded, loving, bitchy, creepy, sweet, motivated, and on and on. I can’t even say the one man I loved most deeply was my soul mate. We were two different people wanting very similar things, but we would never be soul-bonded. Our spirits were incompatible.
American culture was built on manifest destiny. Always look to the future. Plan and conquer. But whatever happened to living in the present, just being, rather than searching? It’s an Eastern philosophical principle, but I think they are on to something. Actively searching for someone else because you think it will open the flood gates to happiness almost always leads to settling for less than you deserve or repelling the love you desire. Because the ideal of “the one” doesn’t exist. It’s a carefully crafted delusion of the human condition. We are pair-bonding animals so it’s no wonder we create and expect there to be that special “one” waiting in the wings, just waiting for the day when we find him or her.
I’ve stopped looking for “the one” to complete me. I may never find an incarnation of him. Instead, my struggle is learning how I “complete me”.